Noise outside of the Donegal panel didn't affect us: Patrick McBrearty

Donegal captain Patrick McBrearty still believes they can be a force at the top table Picture: Margaret McLaughlin.
Donegal captain Patrick McBrearty still believes they can be a force at the top table Picture: Margaret McLaughlin.

PADDY McBrearty says the much-documented internal wranglings between the county board and its youth academy have had no negative impact on the Donegal senior team’s performances this year – with the Kilcar man insisting that player absenteeism was ultimately their downfall.

The 29-year-old attacker praised his Donegal team-mates for the way in which they responded to the stiff challenges they faced this year and thanked interim bosses Aidan O’Rourke and Paddy Bradley for sticking by the squad.

“It was a mad year, probably from the start,” said McBrearty.

“Everything was a bit of a mess. The League was a mess. Up in Newry [against Down in the Ulster Championship] was a mess.

“We were also missing 12 or 13 players from last year; no panel can put up with those kinds of numbers.

“But the lads who are there are a great bunch. Anything asked of them, they did it and they put a bit of pride back into the jersey over the last number of weeks and I believe there are Ulster titles and All-Irelands there if they want them.

“We just need to get everyone back – it’s as simple as that.”

Paddy Carr was ousted as manager at the tail end of Donegal’s Division One campaign, which ended in relegation, and they were later knocked out of the Ulster Championship by Down.

Ryan McHugh, Peadar Mogan, Michael Langan, Paul Brenann and Odhran McFadden-Ferry (all injured) were serious losses to the county’s hopes.

McBrearty himself missed over three months of Donegal’s season with a bad hamstring tear and Jason McGee was plagued by injury throughout the year.

The noise created by Karl Lacey’s high-profile departure as academy chief along with the mass resignations of the coaching staff was blocked out by the senior panel.

“The stuff about the Academy – that wasn’t talked about once in our dressing room,” he said.

“I never heard one player talking about it. I couldn’t even tell you what’s going on with it, to be honest. Losing Michael [Murphy] to retirement was obviously a big blow to any dressing room and then losing 10 or 11 players to injury was just massive. That’s the reality of it.

“We don’t know where we’re at because we’ve so many boys out through injury – Michael Langan, Paddy Mogan, Odhran McFadden-Ferry, Ryan McHugh and other boys were travelling. We need all those boys back; there’s no getting away from that. We have a big, big pre-season coming up this year and trying to get out of Division Two and then aiming for Ulster.”

Despite the managerial upheaval and player absences, Donegal showed admirable resilience by claiming All-Ireland group game victories over Clare and Monaghan which brought them to the cusp of a quarter-final place, but Tyrone were just too good in Ballybofey last Saturday night.

“The boys in that dressing room could have thrown the towel in after the Mayo game or the Roscommon game and went off to America,” McBrearty said.

“They could’ve done without going to Convoy four or five times a week, but they stuck at it. They know what they signed up to.

“But, all in all, from where we came from to where we are now, a lot of progress has been made. It’s not been a successful season by any stretch, but things are looking much more positive than they were two months ago.”

On O’Rourke and Bradley’s contribution since being handed the managerial reins after Carr departed, McBrearty said: “Aidan and Paddy have been top class. They could easily have left us, but they really pushed us on. All the players have great time for both of them.”

McBrearty felt he was on bonus territory by just getting back onto the field for the All-Ireland group games after tearing his hamstring off the bone in only Donegal’s second league game against Tyrone.

“I didn’t think I would play for Donegal after the injury so to get three games under my belt was massive,” he said.

“Full credit to the medical team in Donegal, but the work the boys did pushed me on too and I just wanted to get back for them. Things didn’t go our way against Tyrone, but we had some good days against Clare and Monaghan.”

McBrearty paid tribute to out-going Donegal manager Aidan O'Rourke Picture: Margaret McLaughlin.
McBrearty paid tribute to out-going Donegal manager Aidan O'Rourke Picture: Margaret McLaughlin.